By Nick Such
Do you remember May 12th, 2016? I do. It was when we hosted the first info session for Awesome Inc’s new Web Developer Bootcamp program. We weren’t sure if anyone would show up for the open house event, much less if anyone would entrust us with their career and livelihood, enough to apply and commit to completing our program. By August, ten people had taken that leap, our first cohort of Bootcamp students, the Fall 2016 group.
Three years later, we’ve run six Bootcamp sessions, helping more than 50 people start new careers in technology. As we finalize student selections for our seventh Bootcamp cohort, we have several exciting upgrades to the program rolling out for the Fall 2019 session. What’s even more exciting is that these changes come directly from our greatest asset: our growing alumni network. Our past students have already been active in helping recruit recent graduates to work alongside them at growing local tech employers. Now they’re also serving a vital role in helping the Awesome Inc team make continuous improvements to our training program.
In 2016, we launched the Bootcamp with a job guarantee. We had no job placement statistics to lean on, so the guarantee was a must to help our first students justify the risk of committing to our program. In short, the job guarantee stated that if you completed our program (4 weeks of Prework, 12 weeks of classes, and up to 6 months of assisted job search) and didn’t find a tech job, we’d refund your tuition. The program worked out, and everyone who completed that process found a job. After running our three cohorts through the program (Fall ‘16, Summer ‘17, Fall ‘17), we removed our job guarantee, thinking it was unnecessary.
Earlier this year, we collected feedback from our alumni, including those from the first three cohorts. One of the things we learned is that even though our students found jobs and didn’t have to use that guarantee, it provided a strong psychological benefit throughout their training and job search. Also, as prospective students, it signaled to them Awesome Inc’s commitment to their success. We only win when our students win. So, on the advice of our alumni network, we’ve brought back the job guarantee, starring with the Fall 2019 session. See the Bootcamp page for more details.
Our Bootcamp program has always consisted of four weeks of Prework (part-time, completed remotely) and 12 weeks of full-time, in-person classes, for a combined 16 weeks of training. This hybrid approach is meant to allow our students to ease into the intellectual and physical environment of software development, as well as spend less time out of work and without an income. The tradeoff is that while our instructional team has lots of interaction with our students during the 12 weeks in-person, we have a lot less visibility (and influence) on students during the four weeks of Prework.
Informed by alumni feedback, what we’ve found is a wide range in effectiveness of the four weeks of Prework for different students. We’ve found a strong correlation between students who invest rigorously in the Prework phase and those who make a smooth progression through the 12 weeks of Bootcamp, then into their first job. We have also observed students who take Prework too lightly and don’t properly invest in their learning during this remote phase, which makes the Bootcamp phase especially difficult for them.
While we don’t want to move away from the hybrid model for its benefit to our students’ finances, we do want to better ensure that all our students are getting from our Prework phase what we intend for them to receive. Our Lead Instructor, Justin Hall, has instituted what he calls the “Prework Rework”, which streamlines the content, improves the assessments, and adds more instructor office hours to the remote phase.
We’ve also discovered some helpful teaching tools that we’re excited to integrate:
If you’re considering a career in software development, there’s never been a better time to join Awesome Inc’s Bootcamp. Starting your application for Bootcamp takes less than five minutes, but don’t delay, the Fall 2019 application deadline is July 12th.